|Jim Muttram - MD, Reed Business Information|
I first became involved with the commercial property industry in 1995 when I was asked to move to Estates Gazette and launch EGi. At that time we weren't even sure that it should be an internet delivered product; the majority of the big services at that time were dial-up including giants like Compuserve and AOL.
The internet was only just making significant inroads into the US that year so it was very early days for an internet service in the UK - and the property industry was one of the first ones in.
The challenge in those first few years was to talk to as many surveyors and property professionals as possible as convince them that the internet was here to stay and that information on the desktop was going to be the way of the future.
We achieved that, and became the leading information service for the sector, but in the subsequent years other industries took up the baton in eclipsed internet usage in property. I moved off EG in 2004 and it wasn't until 2008 that I got another chance to work with the sector again.
And what I found was surprising - technology use in property was still a bit behind the times - property data was still being manually collected using incompatible spreadsheets and phone calls rather that the slick data collection I had seen in other industries.
And yet smart phone and Blackberry use was among the highest I had seen.
Desktop analytics was still in its infancy in the industry. And yet I noticed thousands of property people on LinkedIn.
I think I now know the answer to these conundrums; the property industry is a people industry and it is very mobile. While they have been happy to use desktop tools to do their work they've never been truly happy with the situation.
So I sense that we may be on the verge of a real tipping point here. Mobile, after so many years of promise, is finally here. And social media has finally arrived big time - LinkedIn, for example, has more than 70 million users. Putting the two together, and adding in location services, and enhanced reality capabilities such as Layar I can see very exciting things about to happen and the commercial property industry regaining the lead that it once enjoyed all those years ago.
Jim Muttram, Managing Director, Reed Business Information
RBI are Europe's biggest online and offline publisher.
Jim looks after the prestigious Estates Gazette Group and is also responsible for the ICIS and Flight groups.